It is what it is; or maybe not…

June 21, 2016

I’ve posted here a few times on this topic, but it’s always worth a re-visit. Down through the ages there have been various pronouncements about accepting things in life –

All the way from “Make the best use of what is in your power and take rest as it happens.”  –  Epictetus (circa 55 AD)-  from a recent Jack’s Winning Words blog.

And then there was the advice in a more modern song – “Let it be – The Beatles

boredThe key to understanding  those pieces of advice is our ability to distinguish between those things that we can change from those over which we have no control. Frustration, anger or maybe even despair come from railing against those things that we cannot control, rather than just accepting them and getting on with life.

The little toss-away saying “It is what it is”, is a reflection of the rather passive attitude that everything that happens to you is just something that you have to accept. I don’t accept that.

Sometimes, “what it is” might be an injustice or the result of a prejudice and you don’t calm personhave to passively accept that. Sometimes, “what it is” might involve a slight or a snub or some other hateful or hurtful behavior towards you and what you still control in those situations is how you react to them. Fortunately, we have some help with that which is captured nicely in this little quote that is also from the Jack’s Winning Words blob –

“God give us the power to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”  (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Jack went on to write that this was a little prayer originally included in a sermon by Niebuhr and that it has been adopted by many 12-step programs including AA. You don’t have to be in a program to use it to make your life better. Pray for that wisdom to praying handsdistinguish in your life those things that you just need to accept from those that you have the power to change and then pray for the courage to change them. Remember that “it isn’t what it is until you decide that it is.”

For those things that cannot be changed, pray for the power of God’s peace that will allow you to accept them with serenity. As the Beatles song says – Let it be.

Have a great and peaceful week ahead!

When Life gets in the way…

June 10, 2015

As seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Reality has a way of intruding into one’s life.” (Joe Biden) Vice-President Biden recently lost his son Bo to brain cancer and has suffered other   big losses in his life.

I often use the little phrase “life gets in the way” as a way of explaining why I didn’t get something done or why I had to change my plans. Life is reality and reality is life and they do have a way of intruding and changing one’s plans.

We all tend to live in our own little worlds of hopes, dreams, plans and routines and very often all of those things are put man rushing
on hold when reality (life) gets in the way. I don’t know about you; but I tend to get annoyed if I’m late for some appointment or commitment. For me it seems important at the time to be on time; however, many times the thing that I’m rushing to get to or do isn’t really all that important and my wife will bring some reality into the situation by saying something like, “why hurry; what have you got to do for the rest of the day?” She’s usually right; whether I’m there right on time or a few minutes late will make no difference. Life gets in the way.

The other thing that happens often is that all of the careful plans that I may have spent hours worrying about go out the window if there’s even one small change or thing that I didn’t consider (which is often the case).  Over planning or over thinking situations is an unfortunate character trait that I seem to have passed on to my son. My wife is much more laid back, with a “whatever” attitude about most things in life (as is his wife, thankfully). I surrounded by sharksjust have trouble letting go of any perceived control and “going with the flow.” Life gets in the way.

I think the biggest problem that most of us have with the intrusiveness of life is the fact that we’re trying to live life as if we did have some control over it. At best, we have control over how we react to the things that the reality of life throws at us. It’s sort of like we’re over here living in our own little bubble (our perception of reality) and things (real life) keep poking at our bubble. We can choose to ignore some things (the things that don’t make it through our protective bubble); but some things break through and demand our attention. We have to stop what we were contentedly doing and deal with this new reality. Life gets in the way.

The things that may not make it through our protecting bubble could be things like racism or prejudices. We may think woman in a bubblethat we can ignore them and look the other way and continue to be content in our own reality. For many that seems to work as a day-to-day way to live their lives. Refusing to acknowledge that there are problems for them means not having to confront and deal with them. Occasionally one of those problems may break through because they hit too close to home – a racially motivated incident in our own town or perhaps witnessing directly the hate that can accompany prejudice. In those times we must react and find our own way to deal with the intrusion of this new reality. Life gets in the way.

I suspect that the main difference between those who might be called “regular people” and those labeled as “activists” is that the activists have dropped the pretense of life in a bubble and seek to confront and affect change in the realities of the life that they see around them. They have found that they cannot ignore the injustices that they can clearly see and have decided to take action. They have decided that when life gets in the way, they will find a way to change reality rather than just accept it. You have to admire that.

woman boxerSo, what will you do when life gets in the way and when reality intrudes on your life? At a minimum, you are in control of how you react and deal with the intrusion into your bubble. Will you try to turn away and ignore the intrusion, in hopes that it will just go away; or will you decide to take action and change the reality that you face. If you start each day with the attitude of “bring it on, I’m ready for whatever you’ve got”, you’ll be much better prepared for when life gets in the way.

Have a great day, but be ready for when life gets in the way.

The stronger you get, the easier it seems…

April 22, 2015

“It never gets easier, but I will get stronger.” – Jabari Parker in a Gatorade commercial. If you Google this little line from Parker’s Gatorade commercial you’ll see that it has been picked up by lots of people as a way to comment on their own lives. It does provide a nice metaphor for life, since it is true that the more one preservers the better they are able to cope with the next adversity in life.

This little saying is a variation on the older saying: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” In medicine the things that we survive help build our immune systems to fight the same thing the next time it attacks. In athletics training helps build the muscles that are needed to perform in whatever sport one is trying. In many other pursuits it is practice and trying gym workoutagain and again in the face of initial failures that eventually leads to success.

I’ve noticed over the 6 or so months that I’ve been going to the Milford Anytime Fitness gym most mornings that things that used to be very hard for me are now easier; I’ve gotten stronger. I started going to the Saturday morning Boot Camp workouts a couple of months ago and the first few times were extremely tough. They are still tough (they are meant to be) but I can get through them now without feeling like I’m going to die in the process. I’ve also worked my way up in the weights that I can deal with on the various machines at the gym and the number of reps that I can do. It seems to get easier the longer that I work at it.

single momLife throws all sorts of things at us, some are physical challenges; but the majority of the “traumas and dramas” in life are
just mental or emotional challenges. Many “crises” in our lives are actually figments of our own imaginations. We get through them and hopefully we learn from them and get stronger. If nothing else, being able to say to yourself: “I’ve been here before – I survived then and I’ll survive now” – helps us get through things.

The longer that one lives the more situations they have usually faced and the more knowledge that they accumulate about dealing with them. Eventually that accumulated knowledge turns into what is called wisdom (that’s the hope anyway), but initially it is filed under the heading “lessons learned”. It’s not that life gets easier, but after a while the surprise factor of what you hit in life becomes less. That’s because you’ve been there before and you know now how to deal with things or at least you may have learned that most of these things aren’t really going to kill you. Hopefully you’ve learned to avoid the one that really could kill you.

So, the older that you get, the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that life puts n your way give way to Experience, Knowledge and Wisdom. It’s not that life gets any easier; rather it’s just that you get mentally stronger. A big part of the girls hugginggrowth in your mental strength is being conscious of the boundaries of your own capabilities and knowing when to ask for help when you have reached those limits. Help may come in the form of advice from a family member, friend or a professional; or, it may come in the form of prayer and off-loading those burdens to God.

You will be amazed at how uplifting it is to share your problems with someone willing to help or with God. You immediately lose the feeling of being alone ad of being the only person to whom this has ever happened. Just putting your problems into words and saying, “I don’t know what to do”, is a very liberating start to overcoming them. Humbling yourself before God and saying, “Not my will, but thy will be done” frees you from the burden of carrying the load by yourself. Trusting that praying handswhatever happens next, God has your back, allows you to go on with life.

Have a great day. You are not alone. God is with you and He has never, ever failed someone who put their trust in Him. You just got stronger.

What’s the “Next Play” in your life?

February 20, 2015

A recent post on the Jack’s Wining Words blog had this – “Next play!”  (Mike Krzyzewski)  A recent article in the Detroit Free Press told of how Duke basketball coach “K” has a ritual of saying to his team after every play (good or bad), “Next play!”  No matter what’s happened, focus on the task at hand. 

We all tend to spend too much time on regrets about the past or worrying about the future when we really need to be more in the moment and focused upon the “Next Play.” Life is not like a chess game where you can plan several moves ahead; it is much basketball playerstoo dynamic and has too many variables for that. Rather it is more like that basketball game with you as the point guard. You go brig the ball down trhte court for the next play and try to quickly assess what you are facing (what the defense is doing ) and make adjustments. You don’t have all day to make your decisions (the shot clock is running) and sometimes they are wrong, just like in life; so you keep adjusting and trying again. Sometimes even a well-executed play doesn’t work and sometimes life throws a foul on you.

But, before we get too far into the weeds with sports metaphors for life, let’s backtrack to the main thought of today’s little saying and that is to stay focused in the moment and what is right ahead in life. While we would all like to think that we can multi-task, in fact all we usually end up doing is multiple things badly, instead of any one of them well. Letting one’s mind wander off to the past or focus too much out into the future means taking it off of the tasks at hand and life is far too complex to be doing mental texting to yourself while trying to live (drive).

eye on worldFocusing upon the present will allow you to see the whole court (back to the basketball analogy). What are the decisions that must be made? What are the options that are available to you and what are the possible outcomes of each option. That’s actually the approach that the IBMers took with the Watson computer that they built to play chess. They programmed Watson to look fairly far out at the possible moves and countermoves at any point in the game. We usually don’t need to go as deep into the possible future in real life, but we do need to recognize that every decision and action has a consequence. Hopefully we are guided by a good moral compass and strong common sense.

The Next Play in a game coached by Mike Krzyzewski is seldom something crazy or planningoff-the-wall, but it is one that he makes sure his whole team understands and is ready to execute. If you don’t understand how to execute your Next Play, call a mental time out (as coach K would call a real one in the game) and think it out. Does it make sense to you? Are you capable of executing that Next Play? If the answers are “no” then step back and come up with a different play.

What’s the Next Play in your life? Are you ready for it? Are you focused upon it?

Don’t fear success…

February 16, 2015

“Most people we encounter fear success, not failure” – Brian Buffini – from a post on Inman News.

Brian is founder and chairman of Buffini & Company, a life coaching company. It seems counter intuitive that people might fear success more than failure, but Brian went on to make some points about people not doing what they know they need to do afraidin order to be successful. It’s not necessarily that they are lazy or don’t want to succeed, but rather that success to them actually represents the great unknown in a world of failures that they’ve come to know and embrace. For some it’s a matter of not having anyone to hold them accountable for achieving the things that they claim that they want to achieve; which is, of course, where a life coach comes in handy.

As perverse as it sounds, people who fear success might go into situations expecting failure and welcome it as the outcome because they’ve become comfortable with failure. They take the attitude of, “I know I won’t win”, at the start, so the end is pre-ordained and is usually the outcome. That allows them to wallow in the misery that eeorethey had anticipated to begin with. Do you know people like that? They are the eeores of life. Perhaps, in their cases they have attached this tail of constant woe and failure to their own backsides with an emotional pushpin, sort of like eeore’s tail is attached to his rear.

(Ed. – for those unfamiliar with eeore, click here for more on this Disney character in the Winnie the Pooh stories.)

As we start a new week, are you setting off in search of victories and success or do you begin the week sure that it will bring nothing but five more days of failure?  Do not fear success and do not embrace failure as your fate in life.  Rather look at your successes as grand new adventures, taking you places that you’ve never been before. After all, you’ve seen enough of failure, so there must be a better view from somewhere else.

Success can come in many forms from the many experiences that we might have in everyday life. We might start a successful new relationship with someone by simply saying “Hi, how are you” to them, instead of lowering your heading and hurrying by them. You might have a satisfying success during the week by offering to help someonecaregiver with something. It could be something small; like holding a door open for a person behind you that has their hands full or combing the hair of someone no longer able to care for their self. Maybe success will come in the form of making a great presentation at work or doing really well on a test at school. When those successes occur, embrace them and get used to how they make you feel. That good feeling can be yours more often if you approach everything with success in mind, instead of the fear (or expectation) of failure.

Remember the childhood story of the Little Train that Could. He didn’t succeed by littel train that couldapproaching the hill saying, “I know I can’t, I know I can’t.” You need to approach the ups and down in your life with the same philosophy as that little train – “I think I can, I think I can.” After a while that will change to, “I know I can, I know I can” and then a reassuring reflection of “I knew I could, I knew I could.”  I’ve written here before about believing in yourself – see First Believe in Yourself. If you can get there, then you will not fear success, you will expect it of yourself. See; I knew you could, I knew you could.

Have a great and successful week ahead.

Deal with errors, but have no doubts…

January 7, 2015

“Often in error, never in doubt” – A saying about cosmic physicists trying to explain the origins of the Universe, as seen in a recent National Geographic magazine.

When I saw that little phrase while reading about the efforts of scientists to explain the origin of the Universe, it struck me right away that this could explain a lot of things in life. Just over the span of my lifetime there have been numerous theories put forth about the origins of the Universe as we know it. The most famous is the “Big Bang Theory”, which attributes all of what we see around us for as far as we can see into the Universe and into time to a massive explosion millions of years ago. Various scientific papers have refined and elaborated on that theory; some purporting to trace things back to just an instant after the big bang. According to that theory, the universe has been expanding ever since with a variety of factors causing the formation of the heavenly bodies that we see out in space.

big bangI’m not sure that I have ever read anything that attempted to explain what was there before the big bang. Be that as it may, scientists have ever since nor been in doubt about the initial event – the big bang; but, they have often had to correct errors in their calculations and speculations about what has happened since. Their scholarly explanations were often later proven to be in error, but were never in doubt (until the next new explanation came along). Various acclaimed scientists from Albert Einstein to Steven Hawking have added to, or corrected errors in, the theories and explanations of the origin of the Universe, all without doubts about their views and yet all in error.  The final chapter to that book is yet to be written. Scientists are now hypothesizing about dark matter and dark energy and have no doubts that they will explain everything.

Sometimes our lives can be like that, too. We are not in doubt about things, even though we are in error. Often my wife will ask me about something and I’ll throw out an answer, seemingly without any doubt that it is correct. Quite often she will challenge my response and accuse me of BS’ing. I suppose that is another form of error. My response was the first thing that came to me and in that instant I didn’t have doubts about it. Given more time to reflect I might have answered differently or not answered at all (usually the better choice when one really doesn’t know the answer).

angry coupleOne can apply today’s thought to many aspects of life. People who end up getting divorced might tell you that they had no doubts at the tie that they got married, but that it turned out to be a mistake. Perhaps they committed the error of marrying for the wrong reasons or without having spent enough time to truly get to know the other person. Many people look back on career decisions made without doubts at the time that turned out to be errors – perhaps moves for advancement that didn’t work out or acceptance of assignments that were not good matches and proved to be errors. Sometimes they may have even had doubts at the time that they made those choices.

Have there been events or decisions in your life that you can look back on now and see the errors, even if you had (and maybe still have) no doubt? That’s all part of life. You really can’t live life always doubting yourself and the decisions that you have to make; however, like the scientists trying to explain the origin of the Universe, one must accept that errors will be made and take steps to learn from them, make corrections and move on with life.

A key first step to dealing with life’s errors is not to let life get you down. We use phrases like, “it is what it is” or “stuff happens” or just the throw-away term “whatever”  to let go of errors or disappointments in life, without having to beat ourselves up with self-doubt. Maybe that is also where religion comes into each person’s life. Faith allows the believer the freedom to accept the errors that life throws at us without having to doubt ourselves.  The cynic might say that religion is a cop-out, but the believer will tell you that it is a life-line – a way to deal with the errors of life, without wallowing in self-doubt. women dreaming

At the end of each day, if you believe; take some time to reconcile your life and adjust your plans to deal with the errors that may have occurred. Start by assuring yourself that, “I am where I’m supposed to be. I am headed in the direction that I need to go. I am not alone on this journey.  I have no doubts in my life’s guide. Not my will, but thy will be done.” If you can get to that point each day, the next step is simple; open your eyes, unclasp your hands, raise your head and say, “Bring it on.”

You’ll be fine. No doubt.